He closed the door behind him as he left. I heard the latch click and his feet stomp away. The gate opened, and he neglected to shut it properly, and I knew it would tap gently in the wind, like Chinese water torture, forcing me to rouse out of my bed and skip barefooted down the path to close it. The coldness of the concrete would burn my feet and turn them into blocks of ice.
I lay snug in the duvet, tasting the shadows of his kisses on my lips, delaying the moment of execution. I heard the car door slam. I could visualise him settling into his seat, pulling the seat belt across his broad shoulders, placing his key in the ignition, his strong fingers turning it to start the engine. The engine fired and I heard the gentle throb of the motor as his car pulled away – taking Mr Rabbit to war, or to whatever. Taking him away again – for four weeks – it’s not that long.
It was different this time – no contact, no phone calls, no emails, he was going undercover, underground, into isolation or something else, something military, a language I didn’t talk. A language I didn’t want to talk – it wasn’t my name on the commission.
Tap, tap, tap, tap – the gate constantly reminded me of his absence, echoing around the garden, round the bedroom. The house felt like a cold, dank empty cave and I felt warm and safe under the covers. Protected from the grim reality of being alone. Married, single and celibate.
I couldn’t hide forever and eventually the tapping of the gate drove me to distraction. I got up and felt the chill of the day envelope me, covered in goosepimples, I grabbed my dressing gown and wrapped it around my shoulders. With a lightening pace I whipped through the house, and down the path, to secure the gate. Once it was shut I turned on my heel and sprinted back inside, up the stairs, throwing myself back into bed, where I could still feel the warmth of the imprint of my body on the sheets. Pulling the duvet up to my nose, I lay there waiting to melt back into the luxury of sleep. But it was no good, my cold feet took over, and no matter how much I tried to ignore it I knew that the moment of comfort had gone, and that I was now wide awake and up. I looked at the clock – 8.00am. I was going to have to get up and face the day.
The fairytales I had heard as a child never covered what happened in ‘Happy Ever After’ once you had landed the prince. I had married my prince charming. A stunningly handsome, RAF helicopter pilot, who had rescued me when I had a broken leg and nothing to smile about. He had picked me up in his arms and we had rode off into the sunset on his dashing steed. We set up home in a average, military three up, two down semi, in a wood lined cul-de-sac on the edge of Surrey where I baked home made bread and got really fat. This was before children, aging and time. The is a tale of our early departures, some scene setting. I am more used to it now but I still feel like a half of a whole when he’s away. We are starting to write him off in our planning, counting him as not here. The work up to war is beginning and Hagar is preparing. I am preparing too, getting organised, working what I need to cope, to keep me sane, and to be kind to myself so I can raise the kids well, with managed stress.
A solider died yesterday, not a friend, not someone we knew but someone a couple of handshakes away. The tempo of operations in Afghanistan is increasing and he needs to be ready, to be the best he can be. He wants to go. I want him to go. It’s not what you think. It’s his job and, I believe, he is the best of the best. Our country needs him and he’s ready and willing to step up to the plate – right now it’s where he belongs. Don’t feel sorry for us. We don’t need pity, we need support. I am writing this blog to help you understand our journey. Support the families and support the troops by believing in us and not looking the other way. They want to win. It’s all about victory for the serving and I want them to win. The British military may not be the best funded, we might not have the best kit, but we have the best serviceman because as a nation we have a stubborn tenacity, guile, resilience and fight. We adapt, we are flexible and we push boundaries. Please support us, don’t pity us. Don’t let those lives be sacrificed in vain.